Ap-b3c71eaedbcb459aa6a9f6f57051d428_mediumIt feels like it's been forever since the Phoenix Suns played a home game. They are just coming off of their longest road trip of the season and I guess we could say the 3 overtime games made it feel much longer. All in all, I'd say it was a successful trip. They routed the Bucks and Raptors and put away the Pacers and Nets thanks to two game winning daggers from Channing Frye. 4-2 ain't bad, they beat the teams they should have and gave it their best versus the Thunder and Celtics. Glad it's over though. I'm tired of seeing this team in Purple and Orange.

Now, their last home victory was to the Hawks on February 23rd. They've won 6 of their last 10 home games with losses coming to the Kings and Bobcats; teams they should have beaten. For the season they're 17-13 in Phoenix. See what I'm trying to say? They can do better. If the Suns are to make the playoffs they'll need to take care of business in their own arena; 17-13 is just bad. They should at least be 20-10. Of the 8 teams ahead of them all have no fewer than 20 wins and no more than 10 losses at home. So, slap on those white jerseys and protect your home-court Phoenix Suns!

The Rockets

I've got a lot of respect for these guys. They're small (which is good news for us), they've got no star talent (unless you think Kevin Martin and Luis Scola are stars) and they're tough, really tough. Although, not the most talented squad out there (33-32) they're never easy to put away. They'll play you hard, they'll get physical. They never give up, never surrender! They've also got their eyes on that 8th seed and believe they can get it as evident of their 7-1 record since the all-star break. They will come out hungry and aggressive.

The Last time these two teams met was in the BC(Before Carter) times. The Suns won 123-116. Aaron Brooks did not play that game and J-Rich was the leading scorer. Warrick also contributed 10 and 5 in 18 minutes on 3-7 shooting including 4-6 on the line. I expect him to see more minutes tonight. This will be a very interesting game as both teams have changed a lot since then.

 

The Match-ups

Steve Nash vs. Kyle Lowry- Lowry can't be taken so lightly, he's one tough little dude, but Nash is a Star, an MVP and the "Most Ridiculous man in the world".

Vince Carter vs. Kevin Martin- Kevin's dangerous. I can see him lighting us up. Not so sure VC can handle him, but we'll see.

Grant Hill vs. Chase Budinger- Grant Hill has done so much for this team and he did a pretty good job against Durant holding him to just 15 points, but he's old and can only do so much. He's spent so much effort on the defensive end that his offense has suffered. Budinger isn't exactly a handful though. Grant should be able to focus more on his offense in this one.

Mickael Pietrus/Hakim Warrick? vs. Luis Scola- Scola is only 6'9 although I think Gortat can guard him and will be getting that assignment tonight. Warrick should get the starting nod this game. Scola is a good defender, but like I said he's not that tall. Hakim has proved in the past that he can dominate big guys, it's the tall, lanky ones that bother him. Luckily for him the Rockets don't have any of those.

Marcin Gortat vs. Chuck Hayes- Gortat wins this one easily, but Hayes despite his size can play big. He puts up about 7 and 7 in 25mpg.

The Ultimate Showdown!

Aaron Brooks vs. Goran Dragic- Remember the Slovenian Sun? The Dragon? Frosty? Remember how he used to be a reliable, confident, backup PG a year ago? Well so far he looks like he's returned to those ways with the Rockets. He's scored 10, 12 and 9 in about 18mpg in his last 3 games with them. Not too shabby. Araon Brooks hasn't been too shabby either. In 5 games with the Phoenix Suns he's averaged 8.8ppg and 3.6apg on 55, 45, and 87% shooting. Not only that, but his presence alone has ignited the Suns bench into the dangerous, scrappy and explosive force it use to be prior to when Dragic was having confidence issues.

There's reason to believe that Goran may have it out for his former team because they traded him without letting him have any idea they were going to. He thought he was supposed to be the future of the Phoenix Suns and perhaps he was, time will tell if this trade was a mistake.  However, there's more reason to believe that Aaron Brooks has got it out to take down his former Rockets, a team that he once previous led and carried on those small, beautiful shoulders :) If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on the proven leader.

Conclusion

The Suns need to come out strong and set the tone for this game. They need to be the aggressor. This is their home-court and they need to take advantage of that. Meaning they have to run, attack the paint and dunk the freakin’ ball ( I'm talking to you Lopez!)! With a 6'7, 6'9 and 6'6 front-line these Rockets aren't big. Gortat, Lopez and Warrick shouldn't have a hard time getting points in the paint. They try to win this game by the perimeter and they're screwed because Scola is a guy who can also punish them in the paint, not to mention Kevin Martin.

This is going to be a rough stretch without Channing Frye. Someone off the bench will need to step up and take his place. Depending on the match-ups it could be Warrick, Pietrus and even Dudley. Hopefully, Vince Carter can play like he did against the Thunder more often. Steve Nash is also hurting. This is a great opportunity for Brooks to earn his stripes because we'd like to see Nash get as much rest as possible. It all starts here against the Rockets in a game Scott Howard says we must win and he's right...

To the good old days...

To the days to come...

 

And here's some links-

Rockets vs Suns coverage

The Dream Shake

Rockets vs Suns preview

[Note by Seth Pollack, 03/08/11 11:56 AM MST ]

Video from today's shoot around via SBN AZ TV:

 

 

 

Poll
So with Frye out and all, who should get the minutes?

  374 votes | Results


NBA Power Rankings

As if we Suns faithful didn't have enough to piss us off. Here the Suns are behind the Rockets and only 4 spots up of the Bucks.


BOSTON — During the Basketball Analytics panel at this weekend’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made the curious statement of saying when Dirk Nowitzki...

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Not. A. Foul.

Well, you knew eventually the injury bug would hit the Suns. The team has been relatively healthy all season and in a game played by big, strong men who like to touch each other in a manner that can only be described as "hard", it was only a matter of time.

Here's the specifics:

Channing Frye Out Two Or Three Weeks With Dislocated Shoulder - SB Nation Arizona
In an official announcement, the Suns stated that Frye would miss two-to-three weeks. The two-to-three week estimate translates to 10 to 14 games. It should be noted that is a preliminary estimate that is subject to change. 

The Suns are 17-3 when Frye scored 15 or more points and as we've said all season, his improved defense and rebounding combined with his ability to stretch the floor and create space makes him an extremely important part of any Phoenix success.

For more on Frye's hard work this season, read this great story for details like this:

The Lesson Of Channing Frye: Patience And The Value Of Free Agency - SB Nation Arizona
Defensively however, his rebound rate has increased from 17.6 as a center last year to 20.1 as a power forward this season. That puts him in the same category as Pau Gasol, Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, and Chris Bosh. Ironically enough, he's ahead of Amare Stoudemire who's rebounding at an 18.3 rate, which according to Hoopdata.com, is consistent with Amare's last three seasons.

The Suns have 21 games left and are currently in 9th seed in the West. Unless things improve from this initial prognosis, Frye will be out at least 10 games and possibly more. We are talking about the shooting arm or a guy who is dangerous when he's taking shots. 10 games feel optimistic.

While the Suns have been playing very well winning games of late, this is why you can't just blow off what happens early in the season and count on a late run to get you in the playoffs.

The off-season moves that didn't work, followed by the December trades that set things back again, put the Suns in a hole that was always going to be difficult to climb out of.

Add to Channing's shoulder a banged up Steve Nash who talked today about his groin injury, "It's not great, it's not good. But it's not awful. I'm hampered a little bit but I can still play 40 minutes. I don't feel worse than I did yesterday. It's tender. I'm not as effective moving but I still feel like I can contribute."

I am playing around doing some video. These are early experiments with holding a mic, recorder, and camera all the while trying to pay attention and watch two or ten things. Not good, but as they say, it's a work in progress.


[Note by Seth Pollack, 03/07/11 4:32 PM MST ]

FWIW, Goran Dragic had a 12 point, 5 assist game, 2 steal, 2 turnover game (19 min) against the Pacers. It's normal for people to give the benefit of the doubt to new players so take this report from the Rockets blog with a little grain of salt. Then use some more grains on anyone that thinks Aaron Brooks has proven himself worthy of trading a 1st round pick, plus Dragic to get his expiring (restricted free agent) contract yet.

 

Rockets 112 - Pacers 95 Recap - The Dream Shake
Goran Dragic can be very, very good.  I was a big AB0 supporter, but I'll say it now - if this is a representative sample of what we get from him, he's better than Brooks.  His decision making could improve, but his skills and effort are starter caliber.  He's also tall and totally fearless.

 

This one is going to take several more weeks to assess and then it will still come down to how much the Suns have to pay to keep Brooks from going elsewhere.

[Note by Seth Pollack, 03/07/11 5:58 PM MST ]

My take on how the Suns will play without Frye:

Without Channing Frye, Phoenix Suns Will Have To Piece Together A Power Forward - SB Nation Arizona
Channing Frye has the highest plus/minus rating (+93) of any player not named Steve Nash (+289) and looking at the five-man unit plus/minus chart on NBA.com, he is in the top eight groupings. He's easily the second most important player on the team this year.

Frye's point totals will be missed but not nearly as much as his ability to both space the floor and be a big body on the defensive glass and in the paint.

 

Poll
Will the Channing Frye injury push the Suns out of the playoffs?

  784 votes | Results


As the Phoenix Suns try to play themselves into the playoffs, the basketball gods are simply not making it easy. On top of a tough loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night, the Suns...

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